While the electoral battles in Punjab are not devoid of sporadic incidents of violence, the brazen running over of two persons during a clash between Congress and SAD workers campaigning for the MC poll in Moga marks a brutality that necessitates swift action by the state election commission. Perpetrators of direct violence (the Moga killings) and indirect violence (suicide by a Mohali BJP candidate’s husband allegedly following pressure for her withdrawal) not only have to — and should — suffer the lawful consequences of their acts, but also face the ire of voters.
The crime is amplified in the present socio-political context of the state. Punjab has become the model of an unprecedentedly huge, but peaceful, agitation of farmers fighting democratically for the repeal of the new agriculture laws that they perceive as black. The massive goodwill earned nationally and internationally by the endless sea of masses protesting for over two months and the positive image of Punjab thereby gained stand to be squandered with senseless poll-related violence. The people, who have refrained from violence under extenuating circumstances at Singhu or Tikri, would do well to fight their political battles with equal aplomb and restraint and have faith in the power of the franchise. The grassroots have been stirred to an awakening of a fight for their survival and progress. This social arousing, tipped on the edge of violence, must sustain. Both the contestants and voters need to focus on issues of development, even as the state struggles to recoup the losses incurred in the tumultuous pandemic time.
The urban local body polls in Punjab are the first to be held under the shadow of the protests at the Delhi borders. The situation on the ground is a pointer to the sinking in of a new reality as the BJP finds itself hobbling to field nominees or campaigners. Fearing an electoral backlash, many leaders have quit the party or entered the poll fray as independent candidates. The SAD has snapped ties with its long-time ally. In 2015, the Akali Dal-BJP combine had swept the civic polls. The day of reckoning, February 14, will show if the tide has turned.